Feature: Lao workers thrive on career development on China-Laos Railway

Since the commencement of the China-Laos Railway construction in December 2016, a number of Lao local talents, pursuing their professional development on the railway, have grown into railway engineering masters.

Khamphiw Tawa, formerly a 36-year-old farmer in the hilly Xiengngeun district of northern Laos' Luang Prabang province, lived a hard life with four kids to bring up.

Five years ago, many locals still made a living by growing fields or hunting wood in this mountainous area, while the curious Khamphiw noticed many vehicles and Chinese engineers going into the mountains and heard that a long tunnel would be built there for a railway to reach the capital Vientiane.

As soon as the village committee encouraged villagers to apply for jobs with the Chinese company to build the tunnel, Khamphiw went directly to the construction site.

He still remembers his first day on the railway. "On April 13, 2017, I applied for the job," Khamphiw was shown around a steel processing yard with lots of machines he hadn't seen, and he felt it was an opportunity to improve himself and his family's conditions as well.

Khamphiw successfully passed the skilled interview, received training and stayed with the PowerChina Sinohydro Bureau 3 Co., LTD (Sinohydro 3), engaged in welding operations for the railway's tunnel construction.

"I've learned welding before, but it's not the same here. The tools here are modern and I have learned a lot," Khamphiw worked hard, and was soon promoted to head of the local welding team.

To his pride, he was also given the assignment to lead a recruitment campaign in his hometown. "I want my village mates to have good jobs and have the money to support their families," Khamphiw said.

In 2019, Khamphiw was chosen as an "Outstanding Foreign Employee" of Sinohydro 3, and titled as a "Railway Craftsman" by the Laos-China Railway Co., Ltd. (LCRC), a joint venture based in Lao capital Vientiane to build and run the railway.

In the same year of 2019, another 34-year-old man, Somechai Xayyavong, was also named the "Railway Craftsman".

Coming from the mountainous Xiengkhouang Province, Somechai once worked in a local company building a hydropower plant before joining the railway construction with Sinohydro 15 in 2017.

"I learned more knowledge and learned to use higher-end equipment after coming to work on the railway. The construction of the railway is more complex with more advanced technology employed," Somechai told Xinhua.

The improvement of the technical skills has endowed him with a broader vision. "The construction of the railway in Laos has just begun, and in the future, the railway may run through the country, connecting every town," Somechai said, adding that after accumulating more experience and technology, he will "perhaps set up my own mapping company, to cooperate with Chinese partners."

Aafa Laoly, 20, from the remote Phongsaly Province bordering China in the north, joined China Railway Wuhan Electrification Engineering Group Co. Ltd. (WEEG) in May 2020, and was selected as the "Railway Craftsman" in the first year.

"After my graduation from high school at the age of 18, I went to work in Xishuangbanna, China. I saw China's development achievements, and I appreciate the hardworking Chinese, hoping to use the skills learned from China to build my home country," Aafa said.

Aafa told reporters that it is his Chinese mentor Jiang Shuanghong, who unreservedly taught him basic knowledge, installation skills and safety requirements when visiting every construction site, that gradually improved his technical ability, communication skills, organization skills and safety awareness.

"I don't disappoint my Chinese mentor also," Aafa told Xinhua, "during construction of the railway, when generating electricity, I am the first staff to carry the generator; when installing high-voltage cable, I am the first carrying the cable and walking in front of the team; when concluding every day's job, I am always the last one going back after packing up the tools."

The China-Laos railway will soon start operation as the construction work has almost been completed. At the end of October, there are over 100 Lao trainees interning at the China Railway No. 2 Engineering Group (CREC-2) Vientiane railing base, and they will be a new generation of skilled workers in Laos.

Phonephimone Monechandy is one of them, who has a Chinese name "Peng Mengyu".

"In 2015, when I was studying at Guiyang Vocational and Technical College in Guizhou, China, I heard that the Laos-China Railway had held a groundbreaking ceremony, and then I decided to choose a major in railway operation and management," She recalled.

The railway passes by Peng Mengyu's hometown of Muangxay. After returning home, Peng signed up for the first training session of LCRC, and became a trainee in the train driver class.

"I have great admiration for the Laos-China Railway construction staff, who have been working hard all year round in the last five years," Peng Mengyu said, "I am carrying full of yearning for the Lao railway cause and its future, and of confidence that joining the railway cause will surely help realize my value in life."

Xiao Qianwen, the LCRC general manager, told reporters in October, "In the five-year construction period, we were sincerely pleased to see much Lao staff grow up as our company's Railway Craftsmen." He believed that with the joint efforts of the staff from both countries, the China-Laos Railway will become a platform for inheriting and carrying forward the bilateral friendship and a stage for Laos to achieve national prosperity and the well-being of its people.

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